Photo by Bill Roseberry
Granite City head coach George Kirgan and the rest of the coaching staff watch intently Dec. 11 at Alton during a triangular meet with the Redbirds and Civic Memorial Eagles. The Warriors swept the meet.
Wrestling is something the Granite City Warriors take a lot of pride in. They happen to be pretty good at it, too.
Currently, the Warriors are ranked 20th in Class 3A in the state, according to www.illinoismatmen.com, with an overall record of 5-1 and a 2-0 mark in the Southwestern Conference.
The Warriors swept a triangular meet at Alton on Dec. 11 with a 32-28 win over the Redbirds and a 70-12 victory over Civic Memorial. GCHS also owns impressive triumphs over O’Fallon (35-28), Carmel, Ind. (30-28), and Minooka (38-31).
“Our guys have trust in their training,” Granite City head coach George Kirgan said. “We’ve been training and doing some different things and focusing on some different things this year. I think the guys trust in the training and they’re going to start reaping the benefits of that. We work hard. We feel like we work as hard as anyone else, if not harder than anyone else. We do the extra things; we lift in the morning, we try to cut weight the right way, teach the kids about nutrition and that’s why I think wrestling is such a great sport. There’s so much more than winning and losing; it’s about teaching the kids to be better individuals.”
Winning in the SWC is a priority for the Warriors, though, and starting 2-0 with a dual at Edwardsville looming tonight is huge. Wins at Alton and Edwardsville would be major highlights for GCHS.
“We love to win our conference duals,” Kirgan said. “The conference duals are always real big for us and we want to be on top of the conference. We’re going to wrestle at Edwardsville and I’m looking for the same thing. It’s just about wrestling hard with a lot of guts and leaving it all on the mat.”
The win over the Redbirds was a grueling one for the Warriors. They recovered from a 22-9 deficit to reel off six wins in a row and grab the victory. Granite City got wins from Dmitri Espinoza (195), Ryan Earny (220), Kameron Moss (106), John Moylan (113), Jordan Stermer (120), Gabe Wood (126) Josh Rozell (132) and Devin Simpson (138).
Wood’s win was one of the biggest. Kirgan bumped up his senior captain from 120 to 126 pounds to match him up with Alton’s Connor Broyles, an honorable mention wrestler at 120 in the state. Wood is also an honorable mention at 120.
It took Wood four overtimes, but he picked up a 3-2 decision. Wood thinks the win over Alton was a precursor for good things to come for GCHS on the mat.
“I feel like we’re going to dominate this year with our team,” Wood said. “I feel like we’re confident in everything we do, the coaches are showing us everything we need to do and we’re just doing what we do and getting wins. I feel like we’re going to be conference champs again this year like we were my sophomore year.
“That’s the goal, get back on top of everything.”
The 2012-13 season was the last SWC title for Granite City and it has been since ‘10-11 since the Warriors made it out of regionals as a team, so they have lofty goals moving forward. GCHS was fourth last season at regionals.
Their strengths come at the lower weight classes and that was evident against Alton. Moylan is an honorable mention at 113, Wood is the same at 120, D.J. Millett is No. 7 at 126 and Simpson is No. 6 at 138. Matt Wylie also gives them a stud in the upper weights. He’s ranked No. 6 at 220. Millett and Wylie were unavailable for the triangular with AHS and CM.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in our lower-weight guys, but we’ve got some good upper-weight guys as well,” Kirgan said. “As a whole we’re just confident we’re going to go out there and do the best we can and leave it all on the mat and that’s all I ask. Win or lose, you leave it all on the mat, I’m happy.”
Kirgan just foresees it being a positive season for Granite City wrestling.
“I feel like we’re hungry and we want to win,” he said. “Our guys want it, especially our seniors; they want it more than anything.”
Following the dual at Edwardsville, the Warriors are back in action at the ninth annual Kansas City Stampede Tournament, a national-level tourney that consists of 40 teams from 12 states in the Kansas City area on Friday and Saturday. Then they will prepare to host the annual William “Red” Schmitt Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30, which always provides an enormous challenge.